Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Quest to read a further 100 YA books (Part 4)

Time to update my quest with some more YA books I've read. Part 1 is found here, Part 2 is found here, and Part 3 is found here.

61) The Potion Diaries by AmyAlward
62) The Potion Diaries: Royal Tour by AmyAlward
63) The Potion Diaries: Going Viral by AmyAlward
64) The Originals by Cat Patrick
65) Sweet Damage by Rebecca James
66) Stolen by Lucy Christopher
67) The Game by Krystyna Kuhn
68) The Crash by Krystyna Kuhn
69) Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas
70) The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant

71) The Young Elites by Marie Lu
72) The Rose Society by Marie Lu
73) The Midnight Star by Marie Lu
74) Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder
75) Outside In by Maria V. Snyder
76) Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
77) The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott
78) The Third Twin by CJ Omololu
79) Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White
80) Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Quest to Celebrate Perseverance in the Writing Community

Today I am happy to be part of Writers Persevere!, an event that authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are running for the next few days to celebrate their release of their newest book, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma. This book looks at the difficult experiences embedded in our character’s backstory which will shape their motivation and behavior afterward. 

Because Angela and Becca have spent the last year exploring painful human struggles, they wanted to highlight a very important aspect of overcoming difficult circumstances: it can make us stronger. I promised to let Angela hijack my blog today, so please read on!
Hi everyone! When you set out to find examples of inner strength, you don’t have to go very far. Right here in the writing community we see it every day. Writers more than anyone understand the swirl of emotions as we work toward publication. We dream of making it and seeing our books in the hands of readers…yet doubt and frustration can be a constant companion. For us, there is a lot to learn, much to steel our nerves for, and unfortunately, a host of real-world problems that can try to derail us. And, even as we slowly move forward and grow, we can sometimes feel like impostors. This is a tough road.

But the fact that writers face this battle, day after day, and KEEP GOING…this should be celebrated! We need to be reminded that we are much stronger than we sometimes believe. We dream, create, and force ourselves to keep striving. Through the ups and downs, we persevere!

Have you encountered something on the writing road that made you question yourself? Have you faced an obstacle that required a force of will to get past?

If so, we want to hear about it! Join Becca and me at Writers Helping Writers from October 25-27th, where we are celebrating writers and their stories of perseverance. Stop in, and tell us about a challenge or struggle your faced, or if you like, join this event by writing a post on your own blog and share it using the hashtag #writerspersevere.  Let’s fill social media with your strength and let other writers know that it’s okay to question and have doubts but we shouldn’t let that stop us. 


We also have a prize vault filled with items that can give your writing career a boost, so stop by Writers Helping Writers. I would love for one of you to win something that will help you get closer to your goal!
If you struggle, remember to reach out to others. We are in this together, and by supporting one another, we cross the finish line together (and then keep going!). 

Happy writing!

Angela & Becca

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Oh, autumn, how I've missed you!

Autumn leaves and squirrel stocking up on supplies
This time last year I was visiting my sister and her family in Australia, so I missed out on my favourite season - autumn! I love the colours of the falling leaves, the early morning mists and the slight nip in the air. I always feel more inspired, more creative and more writerly when the nights start drawing in.

I finished my latest WIP about a third of the way through August - yay! - and it clocked in at 68,500 words in the end. It's best to get some distance from the novel before starting on revisions, so I've taken a break from writing for the last month or so and have been catching up on my TBR pile (I've read quite a few books, but have still barely dented the pile - oops!). Now that autumn's crackling in, though, I shall hunker down and get serious about starting the next draft.

How about you? Do you feel more creative in the autumn?

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Pitch Wars 2017: #PimpMyBio

Pitch Wars 2017

The annual Pitch Wars contest has begun, and I'm entering it for the very first time. This is a contest run by the inestimable Brenda Drake, and if you want to know more about it, full details can be found at the official website here.

Contestants have until 10pm tonight (New York time) to submit their query and first chapter of their completed manuscript, and mentors will choose an entry each to help improve the manuscript for the agent showcase in November. Mentees will be announced on 24th August.

In the meantime, there's a lot of fun happening over on Twitter. Relevant hashtags are #PitchWars #PWTeaser #PWTeasers and #PimpMyBio.


#PimpMyBio is a chance for mentees to get to know each other better (and for mentors to do some stalking of their own, lol) in a Contestant Blog Hop organised by Lana Pattinson. So, here's a little bit about me and my novel to whet your appetite.

About me:

The joy of a good library crawl is in my blood, and my personal best is seven libraries in one day. I aspire to see my own books on library shelves and in shops one day, which I hope will match the buzz I've had when seeing my plays performed by my local drama group. Currently, I let my imagination soar on my walk to work, where I temp as an administrator at a university.

About my novel:

And here's a short pitch about my 89,000-word YA Fantasy novel, WHERE THE WILD WIND BLOWS, which is a gender-flipped PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN reimagining, told from the POVs of Seri and two teenagers affected by the magical panpipes:

When sixteen-year-old Seri plays the right notes on her magical panpipes, rats will dance to her tune and follow her anywhere.

But if she wants an Underworld priest to resurrect her dead sister, Seri must lure not vermin, but children, to satisfy his monstrous terms.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Crafting the first draft of your novel

There’s no right or wrong way to write the first draft of your novel; the important thing is to get your words down. Some people find it helpful to set themselves a daily or weekly word count target, whilst others may write for a particular amount of time in any given day. Some people carefully plot every stage of their story before beginning their draft, whilst others may have a rough idea and allow themselves to be swept along in inspiration’s flow, taking many unplanned, but rewarding, diversions along the way.

It can be intimidating to stare at a blank screen (or blank page in your notebook), trying to craft the perfect first line, the perfect first paragraph, the perfect first page. Spoiler: You’re unlikely to achieve this straight off the bat. And that’s all right. At a writers’ forum I frequent, some of the writers don’t call their first draft a first draft, but a Draft Zero instead. They allow themselves to write a messy first draft, knowing they can polish it up in later drafts. This makes the blank page a lot less intimidating to conquer.

I’m currently working on a new WIP, and I’ve set myself a daily word count goal of 1,000 words. My aim is to get this draft finished by the end of this month (or maybe by mid-August if I want to make things a little easier for myself – after all, the only person I’m competing here with is me). Some days I achieve more than my goal, other days I achieve less. And that’s okay. Sometimes I can write every day. Sometimes I take a break from writing. And that’s okay, too. This is very much a messy Draft Zero, but that’s fine, and it certainly takes the pressure off when I stare at my blank page. As long as I’m moving my story forward, I can polish it up in later revisions.

How do you work through the intimidating whiteness of a blank page in your own WIPs?

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Mysterious sighting at local park

As it was a bit of a scorcher yesterday, I took a stroll down by the local river in the evening and walked in the cool shade of the trees. Birds and flowers and boys debating whether to jump into the river from the weir were all par for the course, but one thing I'd never seen in the park before was what looked like cotton fluff on the undergrowth, the ground and the trees in one section. Should it have been there? Was a deadly outbreak of some kind spreading through the park? Is the safety of our planet at stake? Enquiring minds want to know!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Quest to read a further 100 YA books (Part 3)

Back to my ongoing quest!  Part 1 is found here, and Part 2 is found here.

41) Half Bad by Sally Green
42) Half Wild by Sally Green
43) Half Lost by Sally Green
44) Damage Done by Amanda Panitch
45) Never Missing, Never Found by Amanda Panitch
46) Lips Touch by Lainie Taylor
47) A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
48) Asking For It by Louise O'Neill
49) The Name On Your Wrist by Helen Hiorns
50) Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
51) Nerve by Jeanne Ryan
52) Geek Girl by Holly Smale
53) Model Misfit by Holly Smale
54) Picture Perfect by Holly Smale
55) All That Glitters by Holly Smale
56) Head Over Heels by Holly Smale
57) Forever Geek by Holly Smale
58) Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
59) Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
60) Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Quest to meet #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas in conversation with Nikesh Shukla
This evening I had the very great pleasure of listening to Angie Thomas talk about her book, THE HATE U GIVE, at Bristol's Watershed as part of her UK book tour. Angie's book was released in the US on 28th February 2017, the last day of Black History Month over there, and debuted at the top of the New York Times' YA best-seller list. I believe it's still going strong at #1 over a month later and has received huuuuge amounts of critical praise.

I first connected with Angie nearly two years ago via Twitter when we both entered The Writer's Voice. Angie entered with an Upper MG Fantasy and was selected onto Brenda Drake's team (I still have my spreadsheet with all the stats!). I am so thrilled that her writing dreams are coming true.

Here's the blurb about her book:

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice. Movie rights have been sold to Fox, with Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) to star.

Angie and me at the Watershed

Bought the book. Got my copy signed - yay!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Quest to visit a Crime Scene House

Earlier this month, some colleagues and I had the opportunity to visit a simulated crime scene. We were given a short briefing before being sent to various rooms in this specially modified house to find evidence and put together a case for what had happened.

Armed with our latex gloves, camera and kit bag, we investigated a burglary that had ended with the home owner being stabbed. Door handles were dusted for fingerprints, stains were tested for traces of blood, photographs were taken, and evidence was bagged.

The home owner had come home after a few pints at his local and disturbed the burglar. Piece by piece - from clues we gathered at the scene - the story emerged of a woman who was unhappy that her ex-partner had now found love elsewhere. She'd come to the house, knowing he was out, so she could reclaim some items, and that was when she discovered the clothes and shoes of her rival in the wardrobe. The man returned home early, a tussle had ensued, and the man had been stabbed.

It was a fascinating morning and gave me a good taste of what a forensic expert would experience when investigating a crime.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Quest to find CARAVAL's hidden cover

CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber
In 2015, I was lucky enough to be selected onto Mónica Bustamante Wagner's team for The Writer's Voice. Her guest coach that year was the very lovely Stephanie Garber, whose sumptuous debut, CARAVAL, was released at the end of last month. I pre-ordered my copy and received some gorgeous goodies - a bookmark, a ribbon, a postcard and a poster - from the publishers as a result.

Stephanie has flown over to the UK from her home in America this week, so check out her book tour if you're in the vicinity. She'll be at the following places:

The hidden cover revealed
20th February @ 7pm - Waterstones Piccadilly, London

21st February @ 7pm - Waterstones Deansgate, Manchester

22nd February @ 6.30pm - Waterstones, Liverpool 1

23rd February @ 12.30pm - Waterstones, Sheffield

23rd February @6.30pm - Waterstones, Birmingham

Not only does the outer cover of CARAVAL look gorgeous, but there are four secret hidden covers underneath the dust jacket. Mine was of a rose, but there are also ones of a dress, a clock face and a circus tent. You'll have to read the book to find out the significance of each (I was rather enchanted by the dress), and here's the blurb to entice you further:

Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

How many books did I read in 2016?

Napier Public Library (NZ)
Reading-wise, last year wasn't as impressive as the previous two years, but library-wise I doubt I'll ever top it. I read a respectable 108 books, so just over two a week. Not bad. Forty-seven books were borrowed from libraries, and I read sixty-one from my own collection (which included five beta reads and seven e-books). I'm hoping to read roughly the same number of books again this year.

I borrowed books from twelve different libraries, adding two new libraries to my collection - one of which was in ... Australia! Yes, I went to the Land Down Under last year, visiting my sister and her family. She's a member of her local library, so I was able to borrow some books under her card whilst I was there - yay!

Queenstown Library (NZ)
As for libraries I visited, but couldn't borrow books from because I was there briefly/wasn't a member? This is where it gets more impressive. Okay, so Seaton and Colyton in Devon aren't as far-flung as Australia, but they still count. So that's another two libraries. Then there's another library in Perth I visited with my sister, but couldn't borrow books from as there's no inter-library agreement (shame). Also in Australia were visits to Melbourne City Library and the Public Library of New South Wales in Sydney.

Additional excitement came when I visited New Zealand whilst in that part of the world. I was on an organised tour of the two islands and thought it would be a good quest to see how many libraries I could come across in my travels. I visited a whopping ten libraries there.

Yes, my worldwide library crawl is gaining momentum! Epic!

Here are some more pics of the new libraries in my collection - enjoy.  :o)

Duncraig Library, Perth (Australia)

Karrinyup Public Library, Perth (Australia)

Public Library of New South Wales, Sydney (Australia)

Melbourne City Library (Australia)

Central Library Peterborough, Christchurch (NZ)

Dunedin City Library (NZ)

Geraldine Library (NZ)

Greytown District Trust Lands Library (NZ)

Oamaru Public Library (NZ)

Rotorua Library (NZ)

Taupo Public Library (NZ)
Williams House Public Library, Paihia (NZ)